As we prepare for Going Down Swinging’s first-ever WA launch, our Perth-based deputy ed Simon Cox reflects on the Perth literary scene and what to expect from tonight’s event.
Going Down Swinging No. 35 launches in Perth tonight with an evening of spoken word, music, and readings from the magazine. This will be the first GDS launch in Perth, but maybe the fortieth such type event I’ve helped organise in this city. For four years, friends and I ran a monthly spoken word night called Cottonmouth, which built a devoted audience for the professional chaos of host Tomás Ford, the poetic piss-takes of open mic heartthrob Byron Bard, and the poetry and short fiction of writers like Amber Fresh, Rebecca Giggs, Andy McNeil and Jay Pruyn.
Cottonmouth retired in 2011, but people still talk to me about it. What they remember most fondly isn’t a particular night or performer – although there were highlights, discoveries and bizarre one-offs – but simply the opportunity to spend time with other writers. In a city where the talent quickly outpaces the number of launches, readings and festivals, and where it’s easy for writers to work away unnoticed even to each other, Cottonmouth provided an important connective function. Thinking about it now, I owe an almost embarrassing number of friendships, love affairs, collaborations and rivalries to that evening.
It was with this in mind more than anything that Alex Kannis and Zoe Barron approached me earlier this year with the idea of starting something like Cottonmouth up again. We wanted something that would draw Perth writers together, give them a chance to hear each other’s work, find an audience, and most importantly find each other. We called it Ships in the Night. Tonight’s launch will be our second event, and with any luck one of many more. If you’re in Perth, why don’t you come down and say ‘hi’? You might meet someone.
There are three WA contributors in Going Down Swinging No. 35, and two will be reading tonight. In future, you can expect to see more. When the Melbourne-based national magazine Voiceworks first launched in Perth, the increase in WA submissions was quick. Events like Cottonmouth and Ships in the Night are an important way for Perth writers to grow and connect, but it’s really in publications like GDS that we gain national exposure. Here’s hoping you’ll hear a lot more from us.